The Ashland University men's soccer team opened the season with its third straight win as the Eagles held off visiting Gannon, 2-1, at Ferguson Field on Saturday (Sept. 9) afternoon.
Freshman forward Justin Libertowski scored a goal in each half and the Knights were not able to equalize after scoring an 87th-minute goal as they sent more numbers forward.
The Eagles (3-0) have won their first three games of the season for the first time since 2010 when they started with five straight victories. This year's team is just the second since the program's re-instatement after a three-year hiatus.
"That's most pleasing, the performance," said second-year head coach Oliver Slawson. "We got two, maybe we could have had a couple more. At the end there, they started throwing up Hail Marys and throwing numbers forward. We were good enough on the day. It's always nice to win, we'll just keep plugging away and get ready for conference next week."
The Golden Knights (0-4), who were ranked in the Top 25 for much of last season and played two teams ranked in the Top 15 to start the season, started off as the aggressors. Gannon forced keeper Dimitrius Karousos off his line in the ninth minute, but the freshman kept the ball out of the net.
In the 17th minute, GU's Luis Driemel got a free header off a corner kick, but the ball was cleared off the line by the Ashland defense.
Just three minutes later, the Eagles had the lead as sophomore Liam Duncan lobbed a ball ahead to Libertowski, who collected it near the top of the box and chipped it over Gannon keeper Jorge Hernandez.
AU nearly had another goal seconds later, but Ardron's attempt was denied by Hernandez at the post. The Eagles forced Hernandez into five saves in the last 10 minutes of the first half.
The teams played a mostly even second half as Karousos made two saves after the intermission.
In the 71st minute Libertowski struck again. Freshman Zach Hubbard played a long cross from in front of Ashland's bench and Libertowski volleyed it past Hernandez for his second goal of the game and his fourth in three games.
"He's doing everything we knew he could do when we recruited him," said Slawson. "He can stretch the game, he's quick. All the way through his career he knows where the back of the net is. We'll just keep riding him as long as we can."
The Golden Knights tacked on a goal in the 87th minute when Eduardo de Bonis Encinoso put one in the back of the net, but the Eagles did not surrender another shot after that.
The teams were even on shots at 13 and Gannon held a 6-1 edge in corner kicks. The game was physical, featuring 33 fouls and seven cautions.
The Eagles will open up Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play on Friday (Sept. 15) at 7 p.m. when they travel to Grand Rapids, Mich. to take on Davenport.